December 14, 2021
As we quickly approach the end of 2021 and graciously welcome 2022, thank you for Giving Justice a Voice! With that Voice, we’ve been changing lives, thousands of them.
Lives like Anthony’s, a young man who didn’t have the structure that is so easy for others to take for granted. Anthony was first arrested at age 12 and sentenced to juvenile detention at age 14. When he got out at age 17, his mother was addicted to crack, his father was in jail and his siblings were in DCFS custody. Anthony knew no other life than what he experienced on the streets and that’s what he went back to. This life led to additional arrests and imprisonment until Anthony finally decided he had enough while in prison. Anthony got his GED, completed drug treatment and became religious.
After five years in prison it’s one thing to decide to change, but sticking with that decision in the face of one employment rejection after another takes fortitude and a little help. CGLA gave Anthony his Voice by bringing his criminal record expungement and sealing petitions to the Court. Anthony’s Voice, now at age 44, was so strong that it brought the seasoned criminal court judge to tears. “I cry for you Anthony,” the judge said just before granting Anthony’s petitions and freeing him of the barriers holding him back.
Despite a year of turbulence and adjustment due to COVID-19, Anthony’s Voice was just one of over 4,500 that CGLA served through our Criminal Court Assistance, Summits, Help Desks, and Clinics. Clinics that were conducted by our Pro Bono team virtually and in person with Chase Bank that involved volunteer attorneys from across the United States and Argentina. Our Pro Bono team also assisted in developing an ongoing joint project between CGLA and Winston Strawn to help individuals with unconstitutional, post-conviction cases. CGLA also gave a Voice to more than 1,300 individuals in our outreach events and nearly 1,000 petitioners in two virtual criminal records relief summits.
The most recent big news is the announcement of CGLA’s new Executive Director, Aisha Cornelius Edwards, who will officially join us on January 3rd. Aisha has been committed to providing access to justice and advocating for more just outcomes for more than 20 years, including five years as a supervising attorney at CGLA! CGLA also welcomed new staff to our Programs, Pro Bono, Client Supportive Services, Finance, and Development departments. These colleagues enabled CGLA to help clients, support community partners, and successfully navigate our hybrid world.
Most importantly, as CGLA began to open its doors to the public this year, 100% of CGLA staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Our Operations team implemented an internal system to monitor COVID-19 self-certification for employees and guests, instituted a hybrid work model that allows employees to work from home 100% of the time, and redesigned our intake rooms to safely service our clients during the ongoing pandemic.
I also want to say thank you for supporting our online events during this unusual year, including our I AM SOMEBODY Virtual program, our Examining the Criminal Justice System, A Year After George Floyd panel, and our Toast for Justice celebration. This past year of exciting online events would not have been a success without your support, and we hope we can all celebrate in person in the upcoming year!
As CGLA turns 48 this December and we begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions, we invite you to consider a resolution to support CGLA with a monthly gift of $48 for 2022. With your ongoing support, we can continue to give individuals like Anthony a Voice. We are so grateful for you, and we wish you joyous holidays and a happy New Year!
Steven S. Fus